Every Diva should know the terms applied to different varieties of a particular meat, such as lamb, are often related to the age of the animal. The meat of younger animals is generally tenderer, but also less pronounced in flavor, while the meat of older animals is likely to be tougher yet tastier.
Beef is the meat provided by domestic cattle, while veal is the meat of the young calf.
Cooking Directions For Beef
Preheat the oven to 450 F/230 C. Roast for 20 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 375 F/190 C and roast for:
Rare: 15 minutes per 1 lb/450 g. Internal temperature of 140 F/60 C
Medium: 20 minutes per 1 lb/450 g. Internal temperature of 160 F/71 C
Well Done: 30 minutes per 1 lb/450 g. Internal temperature of 169 F/76 C
Weak, low activity parts of the cow make tender steaks, while stronger, high activity muscles are better as slow-cooking and braising cuts.
When buying packaged meat check that the meat is dry and firm, and the darker the deep, red color, the richer taste.
Avoid meat that is grayish or discolored in any way and stay away from meat that is in marinade already or covered in spices as those usually include lower graded cuts of beef.
Look for bright red beef marbled with fat. If the beef is in a sealed plastic container bag, the color is typically a darker red and once exposed to air your beef will turn a bright red.
Selecting the right cut
- ground beef, watch the beef to fat ratio, beef number first, fat is second, the higher the fat content, the juicer the hamburger will be
- round is very lean and is sold as round steaks, rump roasts, round roasts, and eye of round. Usually found as a roast, this cut will easily dry out and is perfect for slow cooking or braising in a stew.
- tenderloin is the most tender cut of beef usually sold as filet mignon, and found in T bone and porterhouse steaks as well, best cooked slowly as a roast or cooked on a skillet, grill, or under your broiler if filet mignon
- brisket is a tough cut filled with connective tissue and fat and when cooked long and slowly or braised or even smoked is melt in your mouth wonderful
- Rib Eye, without bone, or Rib Steak, with bone, and keep in mind a Rib Steak can be more flavorful than Rib Eye because bones in your cuts of beef will add so much flavor, cook on your grill, under your broiler or in a skillet.
The difference between Grass and Grain Fed Beef
Generally speaking, cattle are raised on grass at first and then corn or grains after about the first six months of their life. Grass fed beef live on a pasture for their entire life and are usually leaner and some believe taste better.
Grain fed beef is generally considered to be fattier which also means juicy.
U.S. Department of Agriculture
Grades reflect the degree to which the meat is marbled and the maturity of the animal, and are meant to give an idea of how tender the beef is.
- USDA Prime is the highest grade and available in limited quantities
- USDA Choice is the middle grade and is what is found in most supermarkets
- USDA Select is below Choice and is generally leaner and tougher than the higher grades.
Whenever possible, try to buy from a reputable store or butcher who can answer questions about the meats you are purchasing.
For more information on how the United States grades their meat, feel free to click here.
Lamb is the meat from a young sheep:
- Baby Lamb: Milk fed, 6-8 weeks old
- Spring Lamb: 3-5 months old
- Regular Lamb: 5 – 12 months old
- Yearling Lamb: 12-24 months old
- Mutton: Adult sheep 2 + years
Cooking Directions – Lamb
Preheat the oven to 375 F/190 C. Roast for 3 minutes per 1 lb/450 G for 30 minutes less for rare. Internal temperature of 180 F/82 C.
When buying lamb, look for meat that is soft pink to red color with marbling or a layer of creamy white fat. Avoid lamb that is grey in color, excessively bloody or has very yellow greasy fat. The age and breed of animal can make color vary.
Rare lamb breeds or older animals tend to have more deeply colored or darer flesh.
Leg of lamb is a classic for roasting and is most commonly roasted with the bone in but can also be boned and rolled. Look for pink meat covered with a layer of firm, creamy white fat.
Shoulder of lamb is cut from the foreleg. It's cheaper than other roasting joints and contains a higher proportion of fat. The shape of the bone makes it more difficult to carve than other joints. Its fattiness makes it a great cut for slow cooking. Roast or braise it on the bone for extra flavor.
A rack of lamb is a cut of ribs from between middle neck and loin. It is an expensive joint because the ‘eye’ of meat is particularly tender and flavorsome. It can be trimmed and roasted whole or cut into individual chops for pan-frying.
Lamb shank is from the lower leg and has a large proportion of fat and connective tissue. The bone can sometimes be exposed and should be creamy white. It’s best to braise lamb shanks as slow cooking turns the meat tender. As the fat and bone marrow melt into braising liquid, they add flavor and body to cooking sauce.
To some, lamb can be a daunting ingredient or one that's reserved only for special occasions. But, in fact, the many cut options of lamb allow for lots of different cooking methods with many being easier, quicker and more affordable than you realize.
Before cooking with lamb, it is important to understand the parts of the lamb so you can determine which is appropriate for the dish you have in mind. There are seven basic parts of lamb to choose from when selecting a good cut:
- Leg or Shank, front and rear, leanest cut, great flavor, meaty, cook long and slow to enjoy the tenderest result, popular for celebrations, bought as bone in or boneless, used as kabob or stew meat, perfect to roast
- Shoulder, also known as blade or arm chop, inexpensive, lots of marbling, shorter cooking time, used as kabob or stew meat
- Breast, can be tender and tough, great for braising, perfect to roast
- Loin, common, also double loin, expensive, small lean steaks, super tender, perfect to roast
- Rib or Spareribs, inexpensive, perfect to braise or grill, perfect to roast
- Rack, most famous, fancy presentation with 7 or 8 ribs around in a circular shape
- Sirloin chops are thick, inexpensive steaks instead of rib or loin chops
Pork, Ham, and Bacon
Pork is the fresh meat of the domesticated pig. Traditionally pork was seasonal meat, much of which was salted and preserved to provide ham, bacon, and sausages.
When making pork dishes at home, it’s important to have a good grounding in the basic cuts since they vary widely in flavor, tenderness, fattiness and preferred cooking method.
For this guide, we’ll be focusing on five popular cuts of pork: belly, shoulder, tenderloin, chops and ribs.
Pork should have a pinkish-red color or a pinkish-purple color while any fat should be white in color, with no dark spots. Avoid choosing meat that is pale in color and it should have little to no smell.
Is popular for making pulled pork sandwiches and stew, and is a fatty, delicious, tough cut of pork. Not only is it found as Pork shoulder Boston or Pork butt as well. This cut must be slow cooked, braised, smoked or grilled.
Pork tenderloin is an extremely lean and tender cut with a mild flavor that can easily dry out if overcooked. Perfect cut for roasting whole or slicing into medallions and thrown into your skillet.
Pork belly is a fatty cut that comes from the underbelly of a pig and is most commonly served salted and smoked as bacon with its famous, amazing flavor. As expected, this cut includes a high fat content and should be braised or slow roasted.
Pork Loin Chops
Pork chops, which are cut from the loin of the pig are probably the most common cut of pork and are a little less tender than the tenderloin and cook at a much faster rate. Perfect for cooking in a skillet, oven, slow cooker or on a grill. As of today, the USDA recommends pork be cooked to an internal temperature of 145-155 degrees F.
Pork Spareribs and Baby Back Ribs
Spareribs or the lower part of the rib, have less meat, are super tender and tasty. Baby back ribs are the upper, have more meat but are leaner, can dry out if not cooked properly and are usually more expensive than spareribs. Both should be cooked long and slowly or smoked.
Ham is from the back leg of the pig and can be cured, smoked, and then possibly air dried. Whole hams are usually roasted or can be purchased or cooked as steaks as well.
A ham hock or as my grandmother used to say, "pig ankle", every time she would make her homemade Ham and Pea Soup, is popular in the southern United States where it is braised with greens.
The Other Cuts of Meat
There are edible parts of the cow that aren't widely consumed but are edible and include the heart, liver, kidneys, tongue, brain, thymus gland for sweetbreads, stomach lining for tripe or sheep's stomach for haggis, and blood for blood pudding. Also don't forget about pig's feet, head, cheek, oxtail, and calf's foot.